Big­ger brain could make you only a lit­tle smarter than oth­ers

Oman Daily Observer - - SCITECH -

A BIG­GER brain alone can­not guar­an­tee you a pass to the best jobs in the world as re­searchers have found that an in­crease in brain vol­ume con­trib­utes very lit­tle to a per­son’s in­tel­li­gence and ed­u­ca­tional at­tain­ment.

The study, pub­lished in the jour­nal Psy­cho­log­i­cal Sci­ence, was based on Mri-de­rived in­for­ma­tion about brain size in con­nec­tion with cog­ni­tive per­for­mance test re­sults and ed­u­ca­tional-at­tain­ment mea­sures ob­tained from more than 13,600 peo­ple.

The re­searchers found that a pos­i­tive re­la­tion­ship does ex­ist be­tween brain vol­ume and per­for­mance on cog­ni­tive tests, but size was far from ev­ery­thing — ex­plain­ing only about two per cent of the vari­a­tion in smarts.

“On av­er­age, a per­son with a larger brain will tend to per­form bet­ter on tests of cog­ni­tion than one with a smaller brain. But size is only a small part of the pic­ture, ex­plain­ing about two per cent of the vari­abil­ity in test per­for­mance,” said lead re­searcher Gideon Nave, As­sis­tant Pro­fes­sor at Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia in the US.

“For ed­u­ca­tional at­tain­ment the ef­fect was even smaller: an ad­di­tional ‘cup’ (100 square cen­time­tres) of brain would in­crease an av­er­age per­son’s years of school­ing by less than five months,” said Philipp Koellinger of Vrije Univer­siteit Am­s­ter­dam, Nether­lands.

“This im­plies that fac­tors other than this one sin­gle fac­tor that has re­ceived so much at­ten­tion across the years ac­count for 98 per cent of the other vari­a­tion in cog­ni­tive test per­for­mance,” Koellinger added.

The find­ings sug­gest that fac­tors such as par­ent­ing style, ed­u­ca­tion, nutri­tion, stress, and oth­ers are likely ma­jor con­trib­u­tors to one’s smart­ness.

The study re­lied on a re­cently amassed dataset, the UK Biobank, a repos­i­tory of in­for­ma­tion from more than half-a-mil­lion peo­ple across the UK.

The Biobank in­cludes par­tic­i­pants’ health and ge­netic in­for­ma­tion as well as brain scan im­ages of a sub­set of roughly 20,000 peo­ple, a num­ber that is grow­ing by the month.

“This gives us some­thing that never ex­isted be­fore,” Koellinger said.

“This sam­ple size is gi­gan­tic — 70 per cent larger than all prior stud­ies on this sub­ject put to­gether — and al­lows us to test the cor­re­la­tion be­tween brain size and cog­ni­tive per­for­mance with greater re­li­a­bil­ity.” One of the no­table find­ings of the anal­y­sis re­lated to dif­fer­ences be­tween male and fe­males.

“Just like with height, there is a pretty sub­stan­tial dif­fer­ence be­tween males and fe­males in brain vol­ume, but this doesn’t trans­late into a dif­fer­ence in cog­ni­tive per­for­mance,” Nave said.

A more nu­anced look at the brain scans may ex­plain this re­sult. Other stud­ies have re­ported that in fe­males, the cere­bral cor­tex, the outer layer of the front part of the brain, tends to be thicker than in males.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Oman

© PressReader. All rights reserved.